Thursday, February 05, 2009

Harvey Milk

Last month, I went along with my friend Close Encounters to see a preview of the film 'Milk' at the British Film Institute. 'Milk' is about the 1970's gay activist Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978 while serving as an elected city official in San Francisco. We both enjoyed the film, and afterwards the director Gus Van Sant was interviewed, along with the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and one of the actors.

However, it wasn't until I read a review of 'Milk' by the gay British critic Mark Simpson that I realised that the film had glossed over an important part of Harvey Milk's life. According to Mark Simpson, Harvey Milk believed in very open relationships, whereas the film definitely gives the impression that Harvey Milk was a serial monogamist. Indeed, the biography of Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, quotes him as saying the following:
As homosexuals we can't depend of the heterosexual model. We grow up with the heterosexual model, but we don't have to pursue it. We should be developing our own lifestyle. There's no reason why you can’t love more than one person at a time. You don't have to love them all the same. You love some more, some less and always be honest about where you're at. They in turn can do the same thing, and it opens up a bigger sphere.
Long time readers of this blog might spot more than a passing similarlity to my own views on this subject!


Anonymous said...

Was he shot by the partner of one of his 'casual loves'.
We as gay men don't have to follow the 'hetrosexual ideal', but was he not just trying to justify a way of life that of having sex with anything that moves!!!!!!? What he fails to recognise is that many hetrosexual couples also enjoy a 'swinging ol time'so what catorgrey do they fit into?
I think we come back to the belief that we are individuals and should stop trying to conform to any ideals other than those we make for ourselves and our relationships.
The one part i do subscribe to though in his statement is 'be honest about where you're at'. Honesty and personal integrity are the only things i think all people should behold.
Away from my pithy opening comment though, nobody deserves to be shot for their beliefs!
Away from all that what a relief the snow is melting....
regards GB

Ken Skinner said...

Did you enjoy the show? I've heard it's really good, but sometimes people's opinion is swayed by subject matter.

Not to rehash old thoughts/discussions, but I think that one of the biggest issues with open relationships is a mismatch in expectations between partners... that, and if one's getting lots of other interest and the other one doesn't get any :-) That'd suck!

I also think issues arise outside the core relationship when outsiders (the switch-hitters) get it into their heads that they've earned some rights to one partner's affection and time when that was never implied in the outside liaison.

Anonymous said...

Milk lived in his time and age which was still very much influenced by the ideals of the hippy movement in California and particularly in San Francisco, where he lived and served.

He was assasinated by a confirmed hetero gay hater associated with the police force, who was also sitting on the Board of Supervisors (San Francisco City Council, if you will?)

Open relationships are certainly not for everyone.

Yet, an number of people I have met are turning very candid about their marital arrangements and stating very firmly that theirs is an 'open relationship'. I am all for it.


Soul Seared Dreamer said...

Sounds to me like you are using his opinion to justify people sleeping around. It's just a red blooded man's opinion.

To be honest it isn't about how many people you fuck or love.. it's about honesty. I think that is the most powerful sentence in that quote.

I'm planning to see it tmrw.

Anonymous said...


Your obsessed with this issue same issue. I am very sure we all know your strong opinions on the matter. It is very unbecoming of you. Get over it!

Respectfully Yours,

Anonymous said...

Hey, you ARE obsessive about open retionships! And thats all good GB...but wht the fundementalist attitude?

Again I write on here every so often...and it boils down to different people...Boyf P was different..he wants monagamy...

Good for him!

You're a brit and so am I. Are we all Conservatives??? Or Labour???

Come on...

Harvey Milk was in the 70's....things change, culture changes...we english HATE change...

You can't compare a time with liberation and protest with a time were we have 'marriage rights' and other progressive measures..

Its illogical...doesn't make sense..we evolve...culture evolves....surely GAY culture evolves too???


Anonymous said...

Milk is welcome to live his life in whichever way he sees fit, as are the consenting adults he associates with.

But he's dead wrong if he thinks he speaks for all gay men, or even most gay men.

He certainly doesn't speak for me.

Ken Skinner said... culture evolving?

It used to be hip to be a twink... then a bear... now it's all a bit more 'muscle bear' with a side order of 'I'm skinny, but I'll grow facial hair'.

I'm not sure that gay culture is evolving so much as realistically we've only just been let out of the box and nobody knows what the hell's gonna happen!

It's like Dynasty all over again.

SafexSolutions said...

Who shot him?

adult education

GB said...

Fascinating collection of comments, guys :-).

Harvey Milk was shot by a guy who'd also been an elected city official, so not the partner of one of his casual loves, first anonomous commentator! Anyway, I see you haven't got yourself a blogger profile yet, or is this SX different from the previous comments left by an SX? I guess we'll never know for sure!

Yes Kenski, I did enjoy the show, in spite of the point that Mark Simpson made! I agree that mismatched expectations could easily be a problem, but I also think that the balance in the relationship is wrong if finding other partners is any kind of priority. It should just be something that doesn't matter if it happens. Given that it's not a priority, then whether one partner gets more attention or not shouldn't matter. Hopefully we can agree that it's down to the guys in the relationship to make sure that any sexual partners know that they have no special rights to any affection.

I'm all for open relationships too SilverRRCloud, as long as the two guys in the relationship remain each other's top priority.

I'm just pointing out that Harvey Milk's opinion was similar to mine, SSD. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the film :-).

It's not as though every post is about this issue, second anonymous commenter, whoever you are. In fact, this is the first time that I've mentioned this subject this year!

You're right, Rowan, that this issue ended up being a deal-breaker with ex-boyfriend P. But I don't see how you judge me to have a fundamentalist attitude. Incidently, photogreg left
an excellent comment on this subject on my posting about how gay relationships should be constructed.

Indeed JohnF, everyone has to make up their own mind.

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

Gosh, re-reading my comment, it sounds really bitchy! Not my intent at all.

You (surely by now :)) know how I feel about monogamy and gay identity and how the two needs not be mutually exclusive.

I just get a bit uncomfortable when people make sweeping connections between the two.

Ken Skinner said...

We saw the movie on Friday night. Actually, I kinda did get the idea that he was a equal opportunities sh*gger! It didn't throw it in your face, but it did talk about going to bath-houses and he definitely seemed to try and pick up everyone who passed by!

Damn fine acting by Sean Penn. Usually when str8 guys act camp it seems overdone and false. With Penn, he really walked the line beautifully.

It did make me want to see the other documentary, though, which is supposed to be very good and more representative of his activities :-)

Interestingly, you got to see a number of issues arising from a mis-match of expectations! Didn't expect that!

Had great 'fun' explaining the plot to my parents who are very accepting, though sometimes my mum clearly doesn't get it, bless her! I only came out to her 15 years ago, so it's early days. She's still getting used to the idea :-)

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but I will later. Open relationships are not for me either. For me sex and love go hand in hand. I can't think of myself having sex with another when I am with someone.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with GB. It was not clear to me that the film depicts Harvey Milk as a monogamist. In fact, from watching the film, I had assumed that wasn't monogamous. And this is clear from the beginning in the conversations he has with Scott Smith, and through his actions in the film. These are subtle moments, in a film which is about the political life of Harvey Milk, NOT just his sexual appetite/ideology for an open relationship.

Unknown said...

I Just saw the movie ... and whether or not Harvey Milk was monogamous or not who really cares ? Some people want to get married... and some people don't. Either way we should all be in support of each others rights and life style. Lets focus on what Harvey was really trying to promote and not get side tracked. He was promoting Gay Rights, he wanted Gay people to have the same protection and civil liberties as straight people. Out magazine recently had an article with one of the actors, James Franco and he stated that this movies purpose to to raise awareness